Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jun 2000
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2000 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent


The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Desmond Connell, asked: "Why are so many,
particularly young people, bored in circumstances more affluent than
obtained even in the recent past?" when he opened the "Beyond
Maintenance" seminar on treating drug abuse at Clonliffe College in
Dublin yesterday.

He said there was a great need for "the reflection that will enable us
to address the deeper causes of drug-taking" and asked: "what is the
connection between boredom and drug-taking?" No doubt there were many
different sociological, psychological and philosophical ways of
approaching this matter, he said.

The seminar was organised by the Irish Bishops' Conference in
association with The Irish Times. Dr Connell said the church had "a
uniquely profound contribution to make" where the issue was concerned.
"It has need of the support that is so evident today in the
participation of The Irish Times, which we greatly appreciate," he

The Minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Mr
Eoin Ryan, told the seminar that "as a society, we owe every citizen
the right to a full and happy life. We owe it to drug-users to try to
understand more about the nature of their addiction and to offer
whatever support we can to help them overcome it."

He said that while there had been much debate about the use of
methadone in the treatment of drug misuse, he felt strongly that it
must be backed up by a range of other services, such as counselling
and training if it was to be effective in the long term.

A review of the National Drugs Strategy was continuing, with 160
submissions received to date, while the last of four consultative
forums held around the State took place on Sunday, he said.

Numbers in treatment had risen from 1,400 in 1996 to nearly 5,000 this
year and, while there was a waiting list, the Eastern Regional Health
Authority (ERHA), in whose area the vast majority of heroin-users
lived, estimated that a further five or six treatment centres would
come close to eliminating any waiting list by the end of 2000.

However, it had been estimated that there were 13,000 heroin-users in
Dublin, many or most of whom did not seek treatment. Such people
should be actively encouraged to do so, he said.

The ERHA was also working with the Prison Service on a joint programme
to ensure treatment was also available to prisoners.

Mr Ryan announced that the Government was establishing a National
Advisory Committee on Drugs next month.

He paid tribute to members of the clergy for "the commitment, energy
and expertise" they had brought to addressing the drugs problem and
social inclusion issues generally.

"The church has often shown great leadership in this area, and I hope
it will continue to play an important role in gaining acceptance for
treatment clinics and other supports in local communities," he said.

Bishop Eamonn Walsh, chairman of the Bishops' Drugs Initiative
Committee, said there was a danger that those on maintenance would be
forgotten as the "social irritant factor" diminished and a public
perception reassured that things are improving.

A holistic treatment for all who misused drugs was where energies and
resources were called for, he said. And, while legalisation of drugs
was not the issue of the day, real meaningful treatment was.

Ms Anna Quigley of the Citywide group said that while there had been
advances in dealing with the drugs misuse problem since 1996 "we are
still playing catch-up. We are very clearly not getting on top of the

"We can't make up for 25 years of neglect in three. We are now paying
the cost of all those years of neglect," she said.

The bigger Government Departments had an obligation, a major role to
play in solving the problem, especially the Department of Education,
she said.

Mr Jim Cusack, Security Editor of The Irish Times, said that "seeing
derelict teenagers all around the city was a blight on our Celtic
Tiger . . . a terrible blight on our society". Misuse of drugs was now
also "the biggest area of criminal activity in this State", he said.
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